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Dartmouth’s Prince Andrew High School takes first steps toward possibly changing name

Prince Andrew High School is seen in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019.
Prince Andrew High School is seen in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia’s Prince Andrew High School has taken the first steps toward possibly reconsidering its name due to the controversy surrounding its namesake.

The Dartmouth school’s advisory council, made up of parents of students and other members of the community, met on Monday evening.

Joined by municipal councillor Tony Mancini and MLA Tim Hallman, approximately a dozen attendees received a briefing from Brad McGowan, the school’s principal.

McGowan outlined a plan to take the temperature of the school’s community on potentially changing the name.

“We’re a long way from changing the name of the school,” he stressed.

“I have the responsibility to cut through the anecdotes…. to find out what the community wants.”

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The school and the Halifax Regional Centre for Education will work with Thoughtexchange to develop a survey that will find out how the school’s current attendees, their parents, alumni and the surrounding community feel about a potential name change.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia school named for Prince Andrew to reconsider its namesake

The 59-year-old Prince Andrew is facing allegations he had sex with an underage girl between 1999 and 2002.

In December 2019, Virginia Roberts Giuffre told the BBC she was a sex-trafficking victim and alleged she slept with Prince Andrew three times when she was 17 – at the direction of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a New York City jail cell in August.

The interview sparked a push from some members of the school to change the school’s name, which it has held since it opened in 1960.

McGowan said the preliminary discussion on a potential change swiftly drew media attention. Once that happened, passionate people on either side of the issue began calling him to voice their opinions.

He said some of the calls came from as far as Poland but said the level of attention hasn’t changed his goal.

“Bless you for your opinion but I just want to hear from the community,” McGowan said.

“The only voice that matters to me as the principal of [Prince Andrew] is the voice of the people who are part of the [Prince Andrew] greater community: those attend the school, their parents, their guardians, people who have attended the school in the past and the people who live in the community school.”
Sex assault allegations spark name change discussions at Prince Andrew High School
Sex assault allegations spark name change discussions at Prince Andrew High School

Belinda Oxner, the chair of the school advisory council, told media after the briefing that community engagement is essential to this process.

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“If we don’t engage with the community before we move forward it will just lead to greater debate at a later date,” she said.

With files from The Canadian Press